Project type: Unit Award
Unit: Troop 399, Austin, Texas
Coordinator: Matt Love
Project Location: West Austin Neighborhoods
Partner Organization: City of Austin
Boy Scout Troop 399’s Patrol Leaders Council (PLC) voted on September 30, 2008, to earn the Unit Hornaday Award through participation in the City of Austin’s Wildlife Habitat Challenge. The Challenge was a competition among the City’s neighborhoods to certify the most yards as wildlife habitat through the National Wildlife Federation, and to conduct at least one invasive species removal project in each participating neighborhood. Alice Nance, a biologist and the City’s Challenge coordinator, served as the Conservation Advisor. Three older scouts, Drew Marshall, Meredith Kolda and Seung yeon Lee, were working with participating neighborhoods on the Challenge as part of their individual Hornaday projects, and the PLC voted to support their efforts by recruiting a minimum of 60 percent of the troop to work in one or more of their projects. The Challenge ended October 31st, so we only had the month of October in which to participate.
I was asked by Mrs. Ball to head up our troop’s attempt at obtaining the Hornaday Unit Award. She told me my responsibilities included writing emails and coordinating with the project leaders. I answered yes and sent an email on October 6, 2008, about the award to our Troop Committee Chair, Mr. Don Mauro. He forwarded it to the whole troop. The email said that our troop was attempting to earn the Hornaday Unit Award over three weekends and that we needed 60% of the troop’s enrolled members to participate. I also briefly described each project. On Thursday I reminded the troop in a group email because the first project was on Saturday 11.
The first project was organized by Meredith Kolda. She is a member of Venture Crew 399. We advised scouts to wear sunscreen and bring a bottle of water so they would stay hydrated and sunburn free. They were instructed to wear either their class A uniform or their troop shirt and Scout pants or shorts. We told them to meet in front of the bank in the Randall’s grocery parking lot at the corner of Westover and Exposition Boulevard. The first project involved traveling around Tarrytown and petitioning residents to certify their yard as a wildlife habitat by the National Wildlife Federation. For the first hour, we practiced asking people in our group as if they were the residents. For the next two hours we walked or drove around the neighborhood asking people to certify their yards. We had great success by getting approximately 30 willing participant’s phone numbers so that we could check on them in about a week to see if they followed through with the certification. We had a total of 17 Scouts in attendance.
My next email to Mr. Mauro told the scouts about the second project. It was scheduled for Congregation Beth Israel (Rosedale Neighborhood). Our job was to clear invasive non-native plant species and pick up trash left by homeless people and thrown from cars on 38th Street. Scouts were to arrive at 1:00 and bring hoes, shovels, rakes, and we reminded them to wear pants and long clothes to protect them from thorns and catch poison ivy. On project day we picked up trash from the woods. We found a case of rum, an old turntable, a few truck radiators, a homemade grill, a few widow A/C units, an old army-type tent, six or seven vinyl records, and some chain link fence and posts. After we had picked up the trash, we cleared the invasive species of plants. Our Scoutmaster, Mr. Mark Marshall, used his chainsaw to cut down invasive tree species such as Chinese Tallow. The leader of the project, Drew Marshall, instructed the scouts to clear invasive ground cover. After we cleared ground cover, we created an erosion break to help slow down erosion on the hill. We used the trees Mr. Marshall cut down and the plants we pulled up. Also, we collected dead trees, dead twigs, dead branches, and any other natural matter to add to the erosion break. Halfway through the project, we took a break for pizza and water. Then we continued our jobs of clearing. One of the biggest safety issues of the project was being exposed to poison ivy and poison oak. To prevent this, we advised everyone to wear long shirts and jeans or long pants. Another safety hazard was dehydration. To prevent this, everyone was encouraged to drink lots of water and we told people to take a water break every thirty minutes. The final safety hazard was snake and insect bites. We told everyone how to look for the signs of an ant pile and how to look under brush and trash safely so that they could avoid being bitten. The project ended at 4:00.
The third project took place at the nature center behind Casis Elementary (West Austin). The object of the project was to clear invasive species from the forest to make it more enjoyable for students future school use. The project was headed up by Seung yeon Lee. She had already marked the invasive plants with orange surveyor’s tape. People were asked to bring garden tools. The main safety concern was dehydration. People were advised to drink large amounts of water so that they would not get dehydrated and have to go home. People were also told how to avoid poison ivy and poison oak. Kids were instructed on how to remove plants safely and completely. They were taught how to pull up the roots so that the plants would not grow back. The project lasted for four hours and the Casis Forest Coordinator was so impressed, that she asked if our Troop would continue to help in efforts to remove invasive species from the Forest and to create more education for Casis students about native plants and animals.
We had a total of 58 scouts participate in the City’s Wildlife Habitat Challenge by working on one or more of these projects. We have a total of 95 registered scouts, so 60 percent participated. This satisfies the requirements for the Hornaday Unit Award.
The west Austin neighborhoods participating in the Wildlife Habitat Challenge did very well (see newspaper article), and the City of Austin has expressed the desire to partner with us in future Wildlife Challenges.